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Rosemary Square breaks ground on Boulevard of the Arts

Developers, arts leaders and city officials gathered to break ground on the new mixed-use space, a Rosemary District "catalyst project" targeted at the arts community.

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  • | 11:58 a.m. August 7, 2015
  • Sarasota
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Although the tail end of Boulevard of the Arts leads down to venues such as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Sarasota Orchestra, the street itself — which runs through the heart of the Rosemary District — is practically a cultural desert. Developer Mark Kauffman, architect Jonathan Parks and arts organizations such as the Sarasota Opera are looking to change that.

This morning, on the vacant corner of Central Avenue and Boulevard of the Arts, a team of developers, Sarasota Opera representatives and city officials officially broke ground on Rosemary Square, a project designed to kick-start activity in a neighborhood long targeted for redevelopment. 

The mixed-use project — located on more than 60,000 square feet of property — will serve as a multi-purpose focal point for the Rosemary District. According to architect and project manager Jonathan Parks, the project will include retail, office and restaurant space, as well as a 5,700-square-foot dance studio. Developers have also acquired a parcel of property across the boulevard with the intent of eventually constructing a theater space.

In addition, the Sarasota Opera has purchased the project's 30 apartment units to house performers and visiting artists during the fall and winter seasons. Parks said local companies such as the Fuzión Dance Artists, the Players Theatre and a local glass blowing company are planning to use Rosemary Square for rehearsal, office and educational space. Other tenants lined up for the project include Solstice Architects and a Thai restaurant.

"One of the major challenges that we’ve been experiencing lately is housing," says Richard Russell, executive director of the Sarasota Opera. "We have to house around 150 people during our opera season, and the rental market has gone through the roof in price and availability. We wouldn’t be as competitive of an opera company if we didn’t provide quality housing."

Parks said the project's goal is simple: bring the arts to the Boulevard of the Arts. In doing so, he believes the Rosemary District can capitalize on a long-standing buzz associated with the north-of-downtown neighborhood.

"In a lot of other cities, the place where artists and creatives lived and hung out was in warehouse districts," Parks said. "Rosemary is Sarasota's warehouse district. Downtown is going to expand and jump Fruitville Road."

The project will incorporate land formerly owned by the city of Sarasota. The city sought to partner with a private developer and use its property to energize the Rosemary District, which has seen an uptick in residential project activity this year. The first phase of construction, which includes the opera's housing, is scheduled to be completed in summer 2016.

"Rosemary Square will be a gathering place for our community and resident artists," Parks said. "It will be a space that the community can come and meet. Diversity will finally be going inside the design district."


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